Thailand Mountain Trail has spent several years to investigate the most remote mountain trails in Northern Thailand before creating TMT01, the first Thai Great Route and long footpath of the country. Thanks to our extensive knowledge of those areas and long relationship with local people, our organization is the only one to bring runners and trekkers in those mountains far from the tourists.
This 5-day trip will bring us on the whole TMT01 route from Chiang Mai to Chiang Dao. We will cross the sacred mountain of Doi Pui at the doorsteps of Chiang Mai, the wild valleys and jungles in Karen areas, the high country of Hmong and Lahu tribes until the unique mountain range of Chiang Dao. Through remote areas with stations and overnights organized in hill-tribe villages, we will live a real adventure and discover a unique Thailand.
Characteristics of the Trip
16,450 THBAll-inclusive price
Starting from Chiang Mai the 1st day in the early hours of the morning, we hike up directly on a pilgrim trail used by monks. Without transition we pass into rocky terrain which lasts until the almost fairy tale appearance of Wat Palaad, nestling on the bank of a river. A few kilometres further on the course crosses the site of Wat Doi Suthep, one of the most holy temples in Thailand. The view over the valley of Chiang Mai is panoramic and imposing.
The route runs down the dizzyingly steep staircase from the temple, and then, without a break, plunges headlong into its first stretch of jungle. We run 10k in this wonderful atmosphere surrounded by long green tunnels on undulating paths punctuated by fallen branches and trees.
As we emerge from the jungle after a break in a hill-tribe village, the slope gets progressively harder and becomes so steep that we have to use our hands to help us at some points. We reach a magnificent line of ridges edged in pine trees before summiting Doi Pui then Doi Pa Klong, the 2 highest summits in Chiang Mai (1625m and 1575m).
Finally we plunge for a very long downhill in a pine forest until our hotel. We will sleep at Botanic Resort a beautiful and peaceful hotel surrounded by green mountains. After running, we will have time to enjoy the swimming pool and nice Thai food in a relaxed atmosphere. It’s a perfect place to recover before the 2nd day.
We start directly from the resort by hiking up in the mountains. It’s a steep ascent until we arrive at a couple of Hmong settlements. Leaving the fields, suddenly we enter a wild jungle. It’s a long crossing until we reach a new valley. Emerging from a long stretch of jungle and seeing the horizon opens up again is a fantastic feeling; it’s like taking a sudden lungful of air after a long period of holding your breath.
The second part of the run leads us through the Karen valleys. After 20kms from the start we finally reach the first rice paddies carved into the hillsides, like huge staircases of greenery. Crossing the terraced rice fields is an obstacle race for tired runners. To run across the strips of grass without falling you have to learn how to keep your balance.
When we see the first roofs of the village, the Karen village of Mae Kha is not far away. It’s a wonderful place to stay overnight. People live simply and are happy to welcome us; they live in deep contact with nature. After enjoying a deserved shower directly at a waterfall, we will share a meal for dinner with local families. We will sleep in comfortable wood houses besides the rice fields.
In the early morning we quit the village with regret by one of its mountain slopes, gradually leaving its wattle and daub roofs behind you. After hiking a steep trail until the summit of the day (1350m) through a dense stretch of forest, as we go back down towards the valley, the rooftops of Wat Prabat Si Loi suddenly appear below us, about halfway down.
We let the temple behind us and take a dirt track that brings us deeply into the Karen areas. The route goes down through mountains and valleys and offers great view on green hills. It’s a delightful setting characterized by a perfect mix of rice fields, villages and jungle. It’s also a quiet area; only few people live there. Finally after 10k we enter a small Karen village and its lovely wood houses where we make a break.
Soon we leave the Karen areas by tackling a remarkable, dense bamboo jungle, acting as a natural frontier between Karen country and Hmong country. While the former live in the valley, the latter live in the high country. We will sleep in a Hmong village called Mong Ngo located at 1300m high on a pass with wonderful scenery down the valley.
After a long way down through jungle and forest, surrounded by an ocean of greenery, the route enters a magical little valley by a dirt track which runs along the bank of the magnificent Mae Taeng River. This 4th day is a perfect opportunity to recover: the first 18k are down or flat.
The only big difficulty of the day is the last part of the route before reaching the overnight village. It’s a hike up of 3kms very steep. At the top, the reward is huge: reaching the mountain ridge where the village of Kup Kap is located we enjoy a magnificent and distant view over the valley of Chiang Mai and Mae Taeng. The sunset is comng soon.
We will sleep there in bamboo houses built in the purest traditional Lahu style. We will be welcomed by some families and Lahu kids eager to discuss or play with foreigners. After enjoying the scenery and the great atmosphere of the village until the end of sunset, it will be time to share a great meal with one of the local family.
From Kup Kap for the last day of the trip, the run is mountainous and the atmosphere is more alpine. First we conquer the summit of Doi Pha Sam Liam (1650m) after a very steep way up. Once at the peak as far as our eyes can see, we can enjoy a sea of green mountains all around.
Continuing on a ridge in a beautiful pine forest, we arrive at Doi Pakhia (1680m) and can observe for the 1st time the massive mountain range of Chiang Dao. Standing out against the sky, it is the only alpine mountain in Thailand. With a profusion of lesser peaks and ridges, it is also the most imposing and beautiful one.
In the Hmong village of Pakhia, we will make a break at the foothill of the mountain range before tackling with the final part. Depending on the time of the year, we go through or around the massif from south to north. Whatever the route, we will go up for another tough 700m elevation gain on a steep path. In this atmosphere of sheer cliffs and spectacular rock wallsn after a long technical descent, we will reach our final point, the Lisu village of Na Lao Mai.
Botanic Resort is perfect for people who don’t like to follow the crowd. Amid lush, natural landscape and facing the green mountains, guests will feel here a warm and personal atmosphere. The hotel is located in the Mae Sa valley at 650m high. It provides a very good Thai traditional food, a big swimming pool as comfortable and quiet rooms. All rooms are decorated in a contemporary Lanna Thai Style. They are equipped with a personal bar refrigerator, color TV, hair dryer, telephone, coffee and Tea Pot.
After a 2nd day of run, we will reach Mae Kha Piang while the sun is releasing its hold on runners’ body. We will immediately appreciate the quietness, the freshness as the beauty of this Karen village surrounded by jungle and paddies. The cold shower in a waterfall in the village, the reception and the smile of its inhabitants, the delicious food and the night in local wood houses will help us to get strength back before the 3rd day of our trip.
Accommodation is at the top of Doi Mong Ngo located at 1450m high. We will sleep in tents and cook dinner at a fire place. It’s a unique setting for a night. The view is wide and far to the North where we will continue our trip on the 4th day. We can see clearly the summits we must reach before joining Chiang Dao that we can observe its mountain range as well. If we are lucky, in the morning we will wake up with a sea of clouds below our feet and will enjoy a cup a local coffee.
Kup Kap is a wonderful Lahu village. Located on a ridge, the view on the valleys and the other mountains is wide and impressive. We could enjoy both beautiful sunrise and sunset from the village. Even if the village might welcome some tourists sometimes, it has stayed very traditional with typical bamboo houses. We will eat and stay in huts that we have renovated with a local family we have known for a long time. It’s almost like home here!